Hello, it is almost March. My plan for tomorrow is to explain why March is the very worst baseball month, so we will savor the last lingering day of February.
Here, take a deep breath. You hear that? It’s peaceful. It’s the sound of you not being entirely sick of spring training yet. We’re still sharing highlights, still gawking at home runs, still immersing in the phoenix-sport that rises from the ashes every spring. In five days, you will want to punch spring training right in the baseball.
Until then, let us use these early spring training returns for good, not evil. I came into the start of the season with preformed opinions. I have cherry-picked some stats to reinforce these opinions. These are the spring training stats that have already proven my hastily concocted, ill-informed opinions correct.
Jose Martinez is going to hit .300 with 15 homers for the Cardinals this year
There’s a fair chance that if you’re a Cardinals fan reading this, you don’t know who Jose Martinez is. He’s a 28-year-old journeyman with 16 career at-bats and two starts in the major leagues, all of them coming in the last month of 2016. On any other team, he would be unremarkable, a player forever in danger of being designated for assignment.
On the Cardinals, he’s a weapon. You’ve seen how the projection systems hate them this year, which brings up the obvious question: Which random goofball will carry them to 90 wins this year? This is my case for Martinez:
- He’s hitting .429/.500/1.286 with two homers so far. Your counterargument is probably something like, "But that’s in just seven at-bats," to which I respond
- He hit .382/.456/.559 in 341 Triple-A at-bats in the Royals’ system in 2015. While the numbers were almost certainly BABIP-driven, and his modest 2016 numbers reflect as much, this does not matter to the Cardinals as they mutter under their breath by the light of the full moon
- He’s already on the 40-man roster. He’s going to come up with a corresponding injury. You can already see how it’s going to work.
He doesn’t have to hit .300 with 15 homers in 500 at-bats. Let’s not get nonsensical. He can do it in 200 at-bats, say, and become a huge, Kevin Mass-type story for the last two months. He could spread it out over 350 at-bats, filling in against tough left-handers. Or he could start, it doesn’t matter.
Just know that it’s going to happen, and the spring stats have proven it. If it’s not Martinez, it will be someone else, but it’s probably going to be Martinez.
Maikel Franco should be a fantasy draft pick of yours, unless your name is Ed
Ed bugs me because he keeps winning our fantasy league and taking my money. Stay the hell away, Ed.
Franco has three home runs in five at-bats. Two of them have looked like this:
One of them, uh, looked like this:
Still, he’s crushing the ball, and he’s the perfect candidate for a breakout this year. He’s held his head above water, even as he’s struggled with his plate discipline, and he’s just 24, even though it seems like he’s older because we’re almost used to him by now. He’s exactly the kind of player whose continued development, or lack thereof, we take for granted because it’s almost like he’s a known quantity.
He’s not a known quantity. He’s a coiled spring of terrifying power, and he’s probably going to hit 40 home runs this year. Unless your name is Ed, in which case he’s probably going to hit .200 and shuffle back and forth to Allentown all season. Just pick Eduardo Nuñez instead like you know you want to, Ed.
Tyler Glasnow is going to win the Rookie of the Year
He has the pedigree, so it’s not like this is akin to the Jose Martinez prediction up there. Glasnow is the 23rd-best prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America, and he has a clear path to a full-time gig in the majors. That’s a pretty good recipe for a Rookie of the Year candidate.
But he’s included here because he faced seven batters in his first spring appearance, and he struck out six of them. Those batters, in order:
- Manny Machado
- Chris Davis
- Mark Trumbo
- Seth Smith
- Jonathan Schoop
- Ryan Flaherty
Major leaguers, all. OK, fine, he gets a half-strikeout credit for both Davis and Trumbo, and four of the strikeouts were looking, which hints that it’s February for umpires, too, BUT, I was already thinking that Glasnow was on a very short list for Rookie of the Year candidates. And this proves it.
Are we still doing the "Ray Searage is magic" thing? Just checking.
Someone is going to trade a big prospect for Al Alburquerque
First: I typed the name "Al Alburquerque" and waited for a red squiggle that never came. I got it right the first time. That is more important than any of these other stupid words.
Second: This serves as a passive-aggressive prediction on behalf of the Royals, who would have to be out of the postseason chase if they’re trading relievers in July. Sorry. Sorry about that.
Third: Alburquerque is three full seasons removed from his last bananas strikeout rate, and he appeared in two major league games last year. He walked a bunch of guys in Triple-A last season, but you knew that.
Fourth: Alburquerque has struck out three batters in two innings, and he hasn’t walked a soul. Which means all of the other stats are useless. "Always focus on the most recent sample size, no matter how small," was probably a Bill James quote, but I’m not at home, so I can’t look it up.
If it’s not Alburquerque, it will be someone random. No one expected Joe Blanton last year. And no one will expect ________ this year. The team that lacked the foresight to acquire _______ on a minor-league deal will pay the price in prospects.
The Mariners will regret trading for Yovani Gallardo
In the tradition of my "The Mariners will regret signing Nelson Cruz" prediction, which was shockingly prescient, the Mariners will regret trading for Yovani Gallardo, who walked three and gave up two hits in his only spring appearance, allowing four earned runs.
Gallardo was a fair gamble for the Orioles before last season. They needed a starter, and they waited until the market settled and prices got a little fairer. Fine. But he was incredibly rough to watch last year, and things are likely to get better before they get worse, even if the change in ballparks will help him as much as any change possibly could.
I would like to introduce my Orioles Starting Pitcher Trade Theorem, which goes like this:
If the Orioles offer you a veteran starting pitcher in a trade, politely decline.
Jerry Dipoto was so strung out on transaction dust, he called the Orioles from a bathroom, begging them for a starting pitcher. The Orioles. Now, the Mariners also shed a little salary in the deal, and it’s not like they’re crushed by the departure of Seth Smith, but there’s still a strong, strong likelihood that they’ll look up in May and wonder what they were thinking.
The Reds will finish in last place in the NL Central
They’re 0-4. Connect the dots, people.
You’re welcome to disagree with these opinions, but note that I have evidence on my side. The evidence of spring training, which is usually unimpeachable. Form contrary opinions at your own risk.